Many of our clients are initially somewhat concerned about the meeting of creditors. The meeting of creditors need not cause substantial concern. Frequently after the meeting our clients will comment that “it wasn’t as bad as I thought”.
Who Will Be At the Meeting?
With limited exception in every bankruptcy case the trustee has a statutory responsibility to convent a meeting of creditors. The meeting of creditors is an opportunity for the bankruptcy trustee to ask the debtor questions under oath. Other creditors may also attend and ask the debtor questions, but rarely do so. When a creditor does appear it is usually a secured creditor such as a lender on a car or furniture. These creditors want to determine your intentions regarding the asset (are you going to give it back or continue to pay for it).
This is not a court hearing and the judge cannot be present at the meeting. As a result, no rulings of law can be made. The best advise we can offer is to relax.
What Can I Expect At the Meeting?
The meeting usually starts with the first giving general instructions applicable to all the debtors appearing during the same session and then begin meeting individually with the debtors. The meeting is grouped with a number of case and in most cases are scheduled to last one hour for all of the cases on the docket. Debtors should plan on being at the meeting for approximately an hour, although the time you actually spend on your case will likely only last 5-10 minutes.
Under statute the meeting is designed to ensure that the debtor understands: (a) the effect of receiving a discharge of her debts; (b) the effect of reaffirming debt; (c) and the debtor’s ability to seek relief under a different chapter of bankruptcy. In practice, the trustee usually asks the following questions:
1- Did you file a petition, statements and schedules?
2- Before filing the petition, statements and schedules did you review and sign them and is the signature your own?
3- Have you listed all of your assets?
4- Have you listed all of your debts?
5- Are there any changes you need to make?
The US Trustee’s office has prepared a video example. Click to View.
Is Attendance Mandatory?
The court schedules the 341 meeting and notice is sent to all your creditors, so that they can attend if they chose. Attendance is mandatory for all debtors in the case. If one or both of the debtors does not attend, the case can be dismissed as to the debtor that doesn’t appear. It is therefore very important that each debtor attend the scheduled meeting.
Can the Date or Time of the 341 Meeting Be Changed?
In extreme case the meeting of creditors can be “continued” or rescheduled with court approval. Notice must be provided to each of your creditors in advance of the meeting and the meeting has to be rescheduled by the court. There are almost always additional costs associated with continuing the meeting. For these reasons, continuing the meeting should only be sought in extreme cases.
Are there Any Other Court Appearances?
In most chapter 7 cases, the meeting of creditors is the only appearance that is required. In chapter 13 cases there is an additional hearing before the judge called the confirmation meeting. Attorneys differ as to whether they want their clients to attend that hearing. We generally do not make our clients take additional time off to attend—unless there is a specific reason for attendance.
What Do I Need To Bring?
Unless told otherwise, you need to bring the following documents with you to the meeting:
- Social Security Card – If you DO NOT have a Social Security Card, call our office (or your attorney) IMMEDIATELY. If you fail to bring your Social Security Card to your meeting, you may be charged additional fees for and be required to attend a continued hearing.
- Driver’s License or other government issued picture ID.
- Bank Statements – For each of your accounts covering the date you filed for bankruptcy.
- Pay Stubs – Your most recent pay stub.
- Your most recent tax return.
- Your most recent county property tax notice (if you own your home).
- Any other information that the trustee or your attorney requested you to bring.